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What Car? says

4 out of 5 stars

For It drives well and there's a wide range of engines

Against Saloon body lacks practicality of the Golf it's based on

Verdict Cheaper than more practical Golf, but the Bora is just as well built

Go for… 1.9 TDI

Avoid… 1.6

Volkswagen Bora Saloon
  • 1. Timing belts snap on 1.8 petrols, leading to seriously costly engine repairs or replacement
  • 2. Watch out for smoke when diesel engines start up - the turbochargers can stick
  • 3. The seats are comfortable and supportive, and the cabin is very solidly made
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Volkswagen Bora Saloon full review with expert trade views

When Volkswagen introduced the Bora in 1999, it was attempting to create a small sporting saloon in the BMW 3-Series mould. It never quite achieved those dizzy heights, but the Bora is a good and smart-looking car all the same, even if its saloon body restricts its practicality.

Where it does score over the Golf is that, thanks to stiffer suspension and superior body control, it’s a better driver’s car than the car it’s based on. True, really rough or tortuously twisty roads can get the better of Bora’s chassis, but most of the time it’s fine.

There is a huge variety of engines and the majority are very refined, although the diesels can be boomy and the V5 isn’t as smooth as it should be.

Inside, there's precious little to complain about and attention to detail in the cabin is second to none. The seats are comfortable and supportive, the boot is roomy and rear passenger space is acceptable.

Trade view

John Owen

Robust Golf saloon, but not as practical

John Owen
Buyer,
Fords of Winsford

The core engine is the 1.9 TDI turbodiesel, and models with this engine are the ones to go for. The 90bhp version, which ran until May 2002, is okay, but the PD high-pressure injection versions are better. The 110bhp and 115bhp models do a solid job, while the 130bhp version, which arrived in June 2001, gives hotter performance.

The 1.6 and 2.0-litre petrol engines are fine, while the 1.8-litre Turbo gives a nice drive in both 147bhp and 177bhp tune, but suffers from reliability problems. Refinement is poor in the 2.3-litre V5, but that's not something you could say of the silky-smooth 201bhp V6 4Motion.

Even entry-level S cars are well equipped, with air-con, central-locking, electric windows and fully adjustable steering. SE trim adds a trip computer, alloys and alarm, while the Sport gets lower suspension and a CD player.

Safety across the range is good, too, with a four-star Euro NCAP rating, front and side airbags and anti-lock brakes. But, go for a post-June 2002 model, if you can, as they also get electronic skid prevention as standard.

Trade view

Martin Keighley

A popular choice with the corporate buyer. Lots of high-milers around. Petrols unloved

Martin Keighley
Valuations expert,
What Car? Used Car Price Guide

Because the Bora, as a saloon, is less popular than the five-door Golf hatch, the good news is that prices are lower.

Service intervals are set at 10,000 miles or 12 months, which is par for the course. And, although Volkswagen dealers charge more for their labour, Warranty Direct’s figures show that the average repair cost works out cheaper than for most rivals.

Running costs are only a pain with the larger-engined models. If you choose the V6 4Motion, for example, be prepared to dip into your wallet regularly, because it has a 25mpg thirst. And, that’s the official figure - the real-world one will be a lot lower, while insurance is high with a group 17 rating. The V5 fares a little better with 29mpg, but its group 16 rating is still steep.

With our recommended 1.9 TDI diesel, you’ll encounter a lot less financial pain, thanks to 54mpg fuel economy and a group 6 insurance rating. The 1.6-litre, 16-valve, petrol unit is fairly economical with 39mpg and the same group 6 insurance.

Trade view

John Owen

Robust Golf saloon, but not as practical

John Owen
Buyer,
Fords of Winsford

You may think that VWs are safe and sound, but there are a few things to look for. Be careful of the 1.8-litre petrol engines, for a start. They have a nasty habit of throwing off their timing belts once they have passed 70,000 miles. It’s not just the belt you’ll have to replace; you’ll need to shell out for a new engine, too.

The 1.6-litre engine can also suffer timing belt troubles at an even earlier mileage, although the consequences are nowhere near as severe.

The 1.9 TDI engine has its problems, too. Sticking turbochargers can result in a loss of power and a drop in fuel economy - watch for lots of smoke on start-up and under full acceleration.

Have a look at the Vehicle and Operator Safety Agency website at www.vosa.gov.uk, which lists all the recalls affecting the Bora. There have been suspension, brake and fuel pump issues over the years, not to mention a concern over the passenger airbag.

Trade view

Martin Keighley

A popular choice with the corporate buyer. Lots of high-milers around. Petrols unloved

Martin Keighley
Valuations expert,
What Car? Used Car Price Guide
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